Amidst the crisis looming over in the agrarian sector in Maharashtra as well as across the country, the sugarcane farmers in the state are facing fresh challenges. In this season, the sugarcane farmers, though there is a glut in production, are yet to receive Rs. 593 crore from the sugar mills across the state. Contrary to the claims of the government officials, the farmers claim that the sugar mills from Marathwada owe more than Rs. 1,500 crore to farmers.
The mills have paid nearly Rs. 20,682 crore as sugarcane purchase price to farmers till July this year, but the arrears worth Rs. 593 crore are yet to be paid to the farmers, an official from the state sugar commissioner’s office was quoted as saying. The mills, however, owe only two crore from last year.
Gangabhishan Thavre, a farmer from Beed district, led more than 100 sugar cane farmers who protested outside the office of the divisional sugar commissionerate and said that the Marathwada sugar mills owe more than Rs. 1,500 crore to the farmers.
Marathwada, in 2013, had sugar cane plantations over 2.25 lakh hectare of agricultural land. But by 2015, it had reduced to 94,000 hectare.
Earlier, the government had fixed the ex-factory sugar price at Rs. 29 per kg, as well as the monthly stock holding limit on mills as part of measures to help the cash-starved industry to cane arrears. The notification issued by the government also added: no producer shall sell sugar in the domestic market at a rate below Rs. 29 per kg.
A fair and remunerative price (FRP) formula which mandates the sugar mills to make certain payments to farmers was introduced, but there was no regulation that would ensure fixed earnings to the mills. As per the rule, the sugar factories should pay the first installment of the FRP within 15 days. But the farmers are still waiting for their money for the produce that they had handed over to the mills in last crushing season that started around October.
Raising the concerns over FRP, a group of farmers from the Aurangabad region gathered and staged an agitation demanding immediate dispersal of the first installment of FRP. Since the government has failed to intervene in this matter, the farmers warned that they would intensify their protests if nothing was done to ensure the payment of dues.